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Doug Woods: Fostering a Culture of Innovation at DPR Construction

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Courtesy of MHC
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In 2007, when DPR Construction Inc. entered into a commitment agreement with Sutter Health for a $320-million hospital in Castro Valley, Calif., an integrated project delivery contract with 11 signatories was uncharted territory. But DPR dove into the risk-and-reward-sharing framework full tilt, having cut its teeth on more modest IPD work.

The willingness to go where no contractor had gone before was in character for DPR, thanks in large part to a culture of innovation fostered by its co-founder and president, Doug Woods. Change is so ingrained within the company that the general contractor's goal for its 17 offices nationwide has always been to combine innovation and technology to rebuild the building sector, says Woods.

The Sutter Health Eden Medical Center opened last year, ahead of schedule and on budget, says DPR. There are no claims. And though there was no pot of gold to divide up at the end of the collaborative process, DPR remains a strong proponent of IPD.

Woods, 62, has big ambitions. "We don't want to just change construction. We want to change the world," he says.

The firm, which reported $2.4 billion in revenue last year, even has an innovation group that digitally tracks ideas across the company. The idea is to improve each project.

DPR was an early adopter of building information modeling, which it uses on most of its projects, Woods says. The firm also is a supporter of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI) and its philosophies.

"Doug is a passionate builder focused on assuring every worker goes home in the condition they arrived in," says Greg Howell, LCI president. "His respect for people is clear and steady and he absolutely believes that decisions should be made at the lowest responsible level."

Woods says the future is in modular buildings. "If you can build it on a computer, you can, in theory, build it in a factory and ship it in components, which is a faster, safer and cheaper way to do it," he says. "We're not there yet," he adds, but DPR is getting closer to doing prefabrication on a large scale.


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